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What other people think of you is none of your business*

Rhoberta Shaler, PhD

Last night in the weekly discussion group I facilitate, the question came up about getting along in the world. The real question seemed to be:

"How can we keep the people in our lives happy...and, liking us?"

That is such a common underlying question, and life-undermining thought. And, for many folks, it actually runs their lives until they look at it square in the face enough times and decide that the question is not very important.

We are not here to have people like us. If that were our primary reason for living, we would be contorting ourselves in multiple ways to accommodate each person in our lives. Many folks are actually doing just that. Think of it this way as the conversation in your head:

"I'm going to see John and he likes the color blue, so, I'll wear blue.

I don't really like wearing blue, but it will make John happy.

After that, I'm going to lunch with Susan. She feels that I'm always too up, positive and happy. I'll have to remember to tone it down so she doesn't feel upset.

Oh, then, there's that meeting at the lawyer's. I have to appear serious so, I'd better wear something dark and business-like. I want her to take me seriously, after all.

Then, I'll have dinner with my mother. She'll comment that "women just never seem to dress up these days" in that judgmental tone she has. And, she won't like the dark colors because "they are not feminine, dear." So, will I have to come home and change before dinner?

Finally, I'm coming home to relax. If people knew that I love my bunny slippers would they think less of me?"

Does any of this sound anything like the conversation in your head? Maybe not about the clothes, but about trying to please the different folks in your life?

What if you could replace it with this conversation?

"Today, I am going to express myself in ways that are congruent with who I am and how I feel. I will live by MY values, MY vision, MY beliefs and MY purpose. And, I'll wear what expresses that and makes me feel confident. I am here to make my unique contribution to life, not to live up to the expectations of others or get involved in their drama. I walk forward, as a vital, dynamic, peaceful expression of who I really am."

Does this sound too good to be true? It's what's available to you when you matter to yourself. When we wrote Soul Solitude: Taking Time for Our Souls to Catch Up, we wrote much about this and I invite you to give yourself the time and attention to read it and take it in. It will make a big, positive difference in relieving you of the burden of caring too much about what other people think about you.

Yes, we love them, like them, respect them. But, we're not living for them. We're living to express ourselves fully and richly, our unique selves.

Go for it!

* If you haven't read Terri Cole Whittaker's book, What Other People Think of Me is None of My Business, make it your business to do it soon. She wrote it years ago and it is as relevant now as then.

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  2. kamakshi - Reply

    yes..she is very much right.i have always felt that to impress others in different ways is infact a way of imprisoning us and i dont think anyone of us would like that. so, i have almost everytime tried to be myself in different situations which has invited grudge from some, and avoidance from some. but i know these are the tests, one has to give to emerge a winner and i will continue it with GOD’s grace.

    •  avatar
      DrShaler - Reply


      Yes, our greatest contribution to life is to be our conscious and aware selves…in my opinion. So, I applaud you and support you. There are people whose arms must get very tired from carrying grudges. The one way we can help them consider putting them down is to not hold a grudge against them for holding grudges!

      As we grow in personal and spiritual awareness, we behave differently. There are many who will not like it because they want us to remain predictable and the same. When we give up gossip, or shame, or blame, or judgment, they don’t know how to talk with us because that is the basis of their conversation. I say, “Love ’em, bless ’em, and move on!”

      Thanks for writing. I’m with you. God’s grace is our sufficiency.

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